Donald Roderick Ford spent 40 years as a volunteer auxiliary RCMP officer because he felt it was important.
For his dedication to the community, Ford was nominated for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and earlier this month, he attended a ceremony to receive his medal.
“It was a real honour to be considered,” Ford said of the award.
“Many auxiliary police officers have done an outstanding job.
“There are 32 auxiliary officers in B.C. who received the Jubilee medal.”
The Jubilee Awards are meant to recognize outstanding community service and in that respect there is no question Ford is deserving.
In high school, Ford volunteered as a junior firefighter in Smithers and upon graduation joined the regular ranks of the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department.
It was interactions with the RCMP detachment during an evening of Halloween clean up that led Ford to becoming the first auxiliary community police officer in Smithers in 1968.
“I saw a need,” Ford said.
Ford, continued to serve as an auxiliary police officer for close to 44 years with stints in Smithers, Prince George, Quesnel and back in Smithers.
With almost 44 years of service, Ford was the longest-serving auxiliary police officer in Canada.
The RCMP recognized Ford’s many years of service with the Peace Officer’s Exemplary Service Award.
Ford would have stayed longer, but regulations stipulated Ford had to retire at age 70, a month shy of 44 years.
Initially, Ford explained, the auxiliary police officer program was designed to train volunteers to assist with disasters or emergency situations, but over time the program saw auxiliary police officers becoming more involved in community policing and backing up RCMP officers.
“We go on ride alongs and serve as an extra set of eyes and ears,” Ford said.
During his many years of service Ford saw his fair share of busy weekend nights helping local RCMP detachments keep up with all sorts of duties from traffic patrol, bike patrol and house calls.
Ford recalls one particular experience in Quesnel where the RCMP were called to a domestic complaint.
At the scene, Ford waited outside and noticed a car matching the description given by the complainant drive up and park in front of the house.
As he spoke with the driver of the vehicle, Ford noticed a shotgun on the front seat.
Ford asked the driver to get out of the car.
The driver initially refused, but then stepped out when Ford asked again after unclasping his gun holster.
“He had gone to the sports store to get ammunition,” Ford said.
“He had shotgun shells between his fingers.”
At that time, auxiliary officers were allowed to carry guns after strict training that saw them achieve a marksman standard that was higher than that required of the regular RCMP officers.
Since then, standards for RCMP have been raised to that of the auxiliary, but the provincial government took away the right of the auxiliaries to carry guns, primarily for liability issues, Ford explained.
By far the best part of being an auxiliary, were the bike patrols, Ford admitted.
To participate in the bike patrols Ford took a mountain bike course where one of the requirements was to bring the bike to a full stop, without setting his feet on the ground and then continue pedalling.
“I really enjoyed doing it,” Ford said of the patrols that could see him log 30 km a shift keeping an eye out for cyclists not wearing helmets, cruising through stop signs and just chatting with residents.
Ford did his last bike patrol this past June.
For those considering the RCMP as a career, Ford advised they become auxiliary officers.
“It’s a good eye opener to see what’s involved,” he said.
With time on his hands, Ford is looking to do more travelling, including a second trip across Canada and hiking one day a week with friends.
As for his work as an auxiliary, 44 years of service still course through his veins.
“I miss it,” he said.